Blake Gordon Photography

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In Print: Saguaro Cactus poaching for Red Bull's Terra Mater
TM-cactus grid.jpg

Earlier this spring, I traveled to central Arizona to investigate the illegal poaching of saguaro cacti for Red Bull's Terra Mater magazine. The National Park Service recently began tagging saguaro cacti in order to prevent theft - which is primarily tied to housing development in the region. However, saguaro cacti are often harvested for landscaping beyond the region bound for California or even China.

The state requires that transplanted cacti be tagged. The only exception to this is if a private land owner is merely relocating one within their own property.

We weren't able to connect with any subjects who illegally harvested. To strengthen the story visually, I looked at how saguaros were represented in the landscape, from wild plants on national forest land and in Saguaro National Park to residential applications in old trailer parks and million dollar homes as well as roadside plantings by the Arizona Department of Transportation.

In Print: Kalus Obermeyer for the Wall Street Journal
Klaus Obermeyer flashing a smile whiles swimming laps at the Aspen Meadows Resort in Aspen, CO

Klaus Obermeyer flashing a smile whiles swimming laps at the Aspen Meadows Resort in Aspen, CO


Klaus Obermeyer is nothing short of a legend in the ski world, and particularly in Aspen, CO where he resides. Born in Germany, Klaus arrived in Aspen in 1948 as skiing in Colorado was beginning to take off. He later developed Sport Obermeyer and created a number of innovations in ski wear. Hewas inducted into the U.S. National Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame in 1997.

Above all these things though, is Klaus' radiant personality. I photographed him working out recently for a Wall Street Journal article, "At 95, a Lifelong Skier Says the Source of His Vitality Is His Workout". Klaus has practiced aikido for 35 years and uses various machines and weight training exercises in the gym. However, swimming is his favorite training activity. And all that keeps him active with skiing, which he still does regularly. In fact, Klaus just celebrated his 96th last week.

Happy Birthday Klaus!



interview at I Love Texas Photo

I Love Texas Photo just posted an interview that I did with them a few weeks ago. In it I get to speak about my personal work, career trajectory, and recent feature for The Nature Conservancy on the Edwards Aquifer.

I Love Texas Photo features work from Texas-based photographers and was created by Jasmine Defore who previously worked at Redux. Sarah Lim conducted the interview. Thanks to both of them.

In Print: Allure of the Altamaha
Wolf Island

Wolf Island

I story I worked on in the spring about the Altamaha River in Georgia was recently published by The Nature Conservancy. The deadline was tighter with this story than with Water Works and a recent drought in Georgia meant the water levels were against us, but I was still came away with some strong images. The Altamaha River delta was extremely visual from the air. I was really honored to work on a story celebrating wildness in my home state.

Long leaf pine cone in Moody Forest

Long leaf pine cone in Moody Forest

The Edwards Aquifer for The Nature Conservancy
Medina Lake, Texas / 01.31.2012

Medina Lake, Texas / 01.31.2012

Earlier in the year, I had a fantastic assignment from The Nature Conservancy to create photographs for a story on the Edwards Aquifer in Central Texas. Not only was this a relevant land-based story in Texas during a time of critical drought, but the photo editor, Melissa Ryan, came to me interested in a more artistic interpretation of the subject.

With the welcomed creative freedom comes the responsibility of producing something unique with finite resources. Exploring the relationship between landscape and culture is central to my personal research and I was thrilled at the opportunity to utilize that way of seeing for a client. On my end, that involves quite a bit of exploring and looking for subtle moments in the interaction between people and place that speak of our larger condition.

The story was shot on film with a Hasselblad and a single 80mm lens. The square format is atypical for magazine work, but gave the images the sense of a formal documentation that we were looking for. The design team did a great job of maintaining the strength of the images through a consistent pacing in the layout. Exploration and constant refinement to the point of exhaustion are certainly a part of my process with personal work and I am very grateful that the rest of the team worked so hard to create something beyond a typical editorial assignment.

Read the article HERE.

View a gallery of images HERE.

See a video about the process HERE.

Jungle Fish

Costa del Mar has launched a 'Protect' branch of their site promoting the eco-tourism/conservation project I've been helping with the past two years - shooting video twice last year for a documentary film on the project directed by Louisianna Kreutz titled "Jungle Fish". See the trailer HERE. The film can be purchased online through their store.

I went down to Guyana again this year to shoot still images, which I also did on the previous trips. Still images are embedded throughout the site, and there is a gallery HERE.

Emmy nomination / catching up

I'm back from another trip to Guyana and have plenty of catching up to do, but am incredibly flattered to receive an Emmy nomination for my contribution to a NPR/ProPublica piece on traumatic brain injuries in the military. The piece can be found here. The story was in the later stages when I was called in and so my contribution owes a lot to the investigative reporting from Daniel Zwerdling and T. Christian Miller at ProPublica, John Poole's video interview at NPR and photo editor, Coburn Dukehart's ability to weave it together into a well crafted multi-media story.

But of course, none of that work compares to Victor Medina and the other servicemen and women who have had to deal with TBI and have had the courage to try and change military practices for the better.

Costa del Mar: fly fishing in Guyana

I just returned from a stay in Guyana working on a project with McGarrah-Jessee for Costa del Mar. The intent of the project is to utilize sport fishing to develop fisheries conservation practices. Undeveloped land is remarkably intact in Guyana and it contains some of the highest levels of biodiversity in the world. None the less, the country has dealt with development pressures and an aggressive wildlife trade in the 1980s and 1990s. Eco-tourism is now a notable industry in Guyana that both supports local cultures as well as local environments. Sport fishing operates within that array of eco-tourism, though is less prominent in Guyana.

The project is in its early phases and this trip was an exploratory one to gauge the potential of sport fishing in the interior as well further the dialogue with government officials on developing conservation practices. While I captured a number of documentary stills, I was tasked primarily with capturing video and used a Panasonic HVX-200A as well as the new Nikon D7000. The D7000 does a remarkable job shooting from the tripod and capturing scenic imagery, but is a bit more challenging to work with while shuttling along in a river boat, dugout canoe, or aging Land Rover.

The Guyana Chronicle has a write up on some of the government meetings that went on here.

assignmentBlake Gordon
editorial: G+J, Stern, WSJ

I recently shot some editorial portraits for a few different clients: the German financial magazine G+J, another German magazine Stern, and The Wall Street Journal.

The first for G+J, was of Van Hoisington, president and chief investment officer of Hoisington Investment Management who unconventionally puts his investments on deflation. He told me about growing up in the tiny plains town of Paradise, KS.

For Stern, I photographed Chris Rodriguez after he was interviewed about his time as an Army recruiting officer in Houston a few years ago. He shared the post with Aron Andersson who committed suicide during that time. Sadly there is no shortage of PTSD-type stories coming out of our two lengthy conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Lastly, the assignment for The Wall Street Journal was of a Shayne McGuire, a pension fund manager at the Teacher Retirement System of Texas. We wandered around the Texas State Capitol grounds early one morning, though only had a small serving of sunlight.

NPCA: Valles Caldera I shot a story for National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) on the Valles Caldera National Preserve in New Mexico earlier this summer, capturing both stills and video/interview material. I enjoyed working on a larger, collaborative editorial project with a process that everyone was exploring. I worked with Jason Bosch at Aurora Novus, the multimedia production arm of my agency, Aurora Photos to produce the video under the guidance of Amy Marquis, associate editor at the magazine.

This parcel of land is, of course, quite stunning, but also has an interesting cultural history behind it. It's been logged and mined, though mostly used as ranch land for the past hundred or so years. It's mild summer climate and situation at the headwaters of the Jemez River make it an ideal summer habitat for many animals. It shifted from private to public ownership and has been in an interim management policy, though is now in the process of coming under National Park Service management, though is likely to remain under the 'preserve' model.

As serene as the caldera is, my time there was definitely focused on making work. I was fortunate enough to catch an incredible evening of weather. It always strikes me at how wonderful and amazing "bad" weather is.

50 miles through the Grand Canyon: Rim-to-Rim-Rim

On Sunday, I finished backpacking 50+ miles from rim-to-rim-to-rim in the Grand Canyon with Boy Scout Troop 65 from Wooddale, IL. The Grand Canyon trip is a staple for the troop and they've done the trip about 9 times - roughly every 5 years. It was a fantastic assignment from Boys' Life magazine, an official publication put out by the Boy Scouts of America.

I hiked with 6 fourteen year olds and 4 adults. We spend two nights in the canyon each way with a rest day in the middle on the north rim. I knew I would enjoy the terrain and challenge of the assignment, but spending some time with a group of 14 year old boys was both a challenge and reward. On the last night, the 6 boys slept on two adjoining picnic tables underneath a shelter, hoping that rain wouldn't punctuate our last night. I slept on the ground nearby listening to the rumors and stories coursing through their high school lives and for a moment stepped back to that age as a couple of shooting stars split the only clear patch of sky.

Thanks for the adventure Troop 65.

Gulf Coast oil spill

I drove all night Sunday night from Austin to cover the oil spill for a Norwegian paper, Dagbladet. I've been working for them for the past three days trying to make sense of the massive oil leak. It's a challenging story to visually tell and the media has been waiting for landfall for a week, but luckily that hasn't quite happened. The scale of the leak is pretty unfathomable and a lot of people are on edge about it. The ecological and economical repercussions will play out over a long time.

Smithsonian Magazine

I got an unexpected package in the mail today. It was a couple of copies of the April 2010 Smithsonian Magazine. I shot some work for them last summer, and though I knew it at the time, it's taken a while to go through to print. The story "All-American Monsters" is written by Richard Conniff and is on America's fascination with the mammoths. I didn't know it until meeting him at the Mammoth Site in South Dakota, but many Americans at the time of Thomas Jefferson were convinced that we would find these animals alive and roaming on this continent.

It was really great to get it in print from them in the mail. So few times do I get my first viewing of the layout in print. I really like the work that they do and am excited to shoot this assignment.

portrait: Hemispheres Magazine

Veronique Matthews, director of Hearts & Hooves A few weeks ago I shot some portraits of Hearts for Hooves director, Veronique Matthews, for Hemispheres Magazine. Hearts for Hooves provides animal therapy primarily with miniature horses to those in need. Hemispheres is the inflight magazine for United Airlines. They will also be using some images of mine for an upcoming profile on Austin.

Despite the winter weather we're having in Austin, we were able to find a beautiful winter day. The ranch out in Lockhart sits atop a hill and was a wonderful location to work with. I brought a lighting setup, but ended up shooting with the fantastic natural light to keep the production more intimate and improvisational.

The portrait will run in the April issue of Hemispheres Magazine.

assignment, magazineBlake Gordon
strip malls & churches:The Wall Street Journal

outtakes from The Wall Street Journal assignment I shot for The Wall Street Journal this afternoon. The turn around was only a few hours, and fortunately I was in my car with computer and camera to shoot some other work when I received the call.

Austin has quite an array of unconventional strip malls, which are always a challenge to photograph. It's compelling to show the vacancy of space, but that wasn't the intent of this story. Shooting from the nearby elevated highway was tempting, but the legal and safety risk quickly ended that thought. I did have a good sign to work with and did what I could. We brought a needed human quality to the visual story and Bishop Nathan Thomas was kind enough to give me some time at the beginning of a service he was conducting nearby. While waiting on Bishop Thomas I scouted out a few spots with good natural light and a solid background and was able to take a few portraits in a matter of minutes. Then it was off to file the images away ASAP for publishing.

Read the article here.

assignmentBlake Gordon
NPR: Houston's Third Ward

I shot a series of images of Houston's Third Ward for NPR's Morning Edition this past Monday. The photo editor at NPR, Coburn Dukehart, was great in that she gave me the freedom to shoot the story however I saw fit. It was quite a blessing that had me digging a bit deeper for engaging images.

I met the Steve Inskeep of the Morning Edition and state rep Garnet Coleman for a tour of the Third Ward. The piece was on gentrification in the Third Ward. Being an issue I muse on anyway, it was great to get a story that played into my training as a landscape architect. Following around the Morning Edition crew was a great insight on their process - very professional. I shot during the day, but ended up getting a lot of great material at night. The urban form really puts itself on display during those sleeping hours.

The story and online gallery can be found here.

Great Basin National Park

I shot out in Great Basin National Park for a star party organized by the National Parks Conservation Association via my agency, Aurora Photos. Great Basin is WAY out in eastern Nevada, which makes is ideal country for star gazing. The Great Basin landscape is also some pretty phenomenal terrain (basin and range topography) with alternating mountain ridges and separated by towering mountain ranges that occurred as the earth's surface was ripped apart from continental drift.

It was great to shoot and speak with folks that are really into the astronomical of the night. The range and craft of the telescopes they brought out was really fascinating as well.

Canoe & Kayak: HEROES cover

CANOE & KAYAK ran its Heroes issue in March and used some images that I shot at last summer's Outdoor Retailer show. It was a great shoot as I had to set up a temporary studio with 20' wide seamless and multiple strobes prior to start of C&K's anniversary party. There was about 20 athletes that we initially shot as a group and then broke them down into smaller bunches. I really enjoyed working with this group as there were some great group dynamics in addition to all of them being stellar athletes. I broke down the studio into a smaller setup and did the 'party photobooth' gig as everyone had a great time.

Water in the West

Pipeline Trek from Blake Gordon on Vimeo.

"Water is the true source of wealth in a dry land" - Wallace Stegner

How does a community begin to define its future? Is it merely shaped by market forces? Does it have to sacrifice part of itself for its future? The conversation is changing from Progess to Quality of Life in places. But how does that play out? How does that play out for a deeply conservative town in southwestern Utah?

I joined Lin Alder and Scott Hirschi as the embarked on an exploratory trek along a route for a proposed pipeline from Lake Powell to the St. George, UT area - roughly 170 miles. I shot stills, video, interviews and all. A final piece is yet to come, but the material serves is rich and the questions are richer. Stay tuned.

on the road

water meters

assignmentBlake Gordon